UROC Women’s Preview with Crosby-Helms, Lundblad & Vaught

A preview of the women’s field at the 2011 Ultra Race of Champions (UROC).

By on September 21, 2011 | Comments

Ultra Race of ChampionsThis weekend the first Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) 100k will be run in Virginia. We’ve already previewed the men’s field, so it’s time to take a look at the women who’ll be running. In case you want to follow the race, we’ll be covering it live on Twitter (follow us).

The four female favorites in the race need little intro: Devon Crosby-Helms, Anita Ortiz (9/22 Update: no longer running UROC) , Anne Riddle Lundblad, and Joelle Vaught (no longer running UROC). (click on runner to jump to interview) We’ve interviewed of these women, with the except of Ortiz, below.

The UROC website lists three other women’s champions in the race:

  • Alison Bryant (9/21 Update: Out per her own comment below) – Strong Appalachian runner who’s dabbled in ultras to compliment her shorter mountain races the past three years. Won the Mountain Masochist 50 mile last year.
  • Sabrina Moran – Only 25, but with 5 24-hour races, 3 100s, and 1 48-hour race. Oh, and she’s not half bad at the shorter stuff either. (9/21 Update: Out with injury. Thanks, Sophie. Confirmed on Facebook.)
  • Andi Felton – Won the 2011 Zane Grey 50 mile
  • Ragan Petrie – Won 2011 TNF EC – Washington, DC 50 mile (See Sophie’s comment for more info)

Now on to the interviews!

Devon Crosby-Helms

Devon Crosby-Helms SalomoniRunFar: You didn’t have the race you wanted at the 100k World Championships where you ended up dropping out. However, did the early miles of the race show you anything about your current fitness?

Devon Crosby-Helms: The early miles of the 100k (I ran 44 total) felt really comfortable, even though I was on pace to run about last year’s winning time (7:30) through the halfway mark. The pace felt very conversational and I know from experience that when I feel that good at halfway that I can usually negative split. Alas, my day was curtailed earlier than I would have liked but such are the breaks of the game.

iRF: You’ve battled food poisoning in the aftermath of the World Championships. How are you recovering?

Crosby-Helms: Food poisoning so close after a race really is a double whammy. Not only does it totally wreck you, make you weak and unable to eat, dehydrates you, it also means that the calories you need to rebuild from your effort are not there. But, I am feeling much better and am celebrating my second day in a row of relatively normal eating! (Note: This interview was done a few days ago.) My muscles are feeling more sore than usual because of what I mentioned. I finally have enough energy for short runs though.

iRF: You’ve stuck to racing on the roads so far this year. Are you excited to get out and race on the trails?

Crosby-Helms: Absolutely. At the beginning of the year, I didn’t really intend for this year to be so road centric and then I just kind of fell into it. I spent a good amount of time on the trails in the early summer but it was as a pacer instead of racer and I look forward to having a go!

iRF: You set the JFK 50 mile course record back in 2009, do you think a similar road/trail race suits your strengths?

Crosby-Helms: I’ve set as many purely trail race records as I have road race records, but I do think that one of my biggest strengths is my speed. Thus, races like JFK suit me very well and I have fun doing them. I think running fast (like road ultras or very flat trail ultras) is a different kind of fun than pure trail or mountain ultras. I enjoy both immensely, but for difference reasons.

Anne Riddle Lundblad

Anne Riddle LundbladiRunFar: You’ve seemed to have taken a step back from ultras over the past year, running only a 50k in January since last year’s NorthCoast 24 Hours. What have you been up to?

Anne Riddle Lundblad: You’re right — I haven’t raced much. I underwent back surgery last year and going through that experience really caused me to step back and take stock of my running. When I was faced with the possibility of never running again, I realized that what I would really miss was not racing, but the silence and solitude of long runs on the trail. I had been racing ultras since ’99 and somewhere along the way, I lost track of what was really important to me. For several years, it felt as if every time I lined up at the start, I had a big X on my back…feeling like I was the one to beat ended up putting a lot of pressure on me. So it has been good to take a step back from the racing scene and try some new things, like the 24 hours and a couple of FKT attempts.

iRF: How has your training gone this year? What have you done specifically to get ready for UROC?

Riddle Lundblad: At the start of the year, I was focusing on FKTs. I soloed the 77 mile Foothills Trail in SC, setting a female FKT, and attempted to run the AT through the Shenandoah National Park (dnf’ed at 89 miles…that’s unfinished business that I’ll attempt again in Oct).  I’ve put in a lot of long solo miles through the mountains, so I think my endurance and mental strength are solid. Shifting towards UROC, I’ve done more speed work and specific hill workouts and long runs to mimic that race course.

iRF: What are you most looking forward to at UROC?

Riddle Lundblad: I am looking forward to lining up not as a favorite to win. I want to go out and have fun, enjoy autumn in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and see if that competitive flame still burns somewhere deep inside me. At this point in my career, the most important thing for me is to feel gratitude for being able to be out there, among friends, doing what I love. And just maybe I’ll surprise myself.

Joelle Vaught

[9/21 Update: Joelle Vaught is no longer able to race UROC.]

Joelle Vaught MontrailiRunFar: You had a great spring with four ultra wins at distances between 50k and 50 miles including yet another victory at Way Too Cool 50k in March and a course record at the Pocatello 50 mile in May, even if on a modified course. What was working for your this spring?

Joelle Vaught: I was really enjoying my running this spring and the courses were good for me, especially Reno and Pocatello, the more climbing the better for me!  I was getting in enough miles and I think the 50 mile distance is a good one for me.

iRF: In June you had a rough go at Western States that eventually led to you dropping. What went wrong and what did you do in the wake of the race?

Vaught: I had the same problem this year as I did the year before, primarily it was nutrition; I just haven’t figured out how to eat in a 100 miler.  I also had zero heat training and although it wasn’t quite as hot this year, I think the heat we did have took its toll on me.  I had so much fun in the first half of the race, I love the climbing and higher mountain sections we begin with and running with you, Nikki and Tracy up in the snow was a blast.  I was so disappointed not to finish the race, it really haunted me for quite a while.  I went on a vacation shortly after and just did shorter runs.  I raced a 16.5 mile run up in Sun Valley in July that I won, this was my only other race of the summer.  It is tough to race in the summer and to get longer training runs in because my son is out of school and I try to spend most of my time that I’m not working with him.

iRF: It doesn’t look like you’ve run an ultra since Western States. How’s your training and fitness going into UROC?

Vaught: I think my fitness is decent.  I’m certainly ready for any climbing, I’ve done a ton of that but haven’t done a lot of really long training runs, nothing over 5 hours, I mainly have tried to run a few 3 hour runs several days in a row.  Not sure how I will do in the later hours but I’m hoping for the best!  I am looking forward to running on the east coast, I haven’t raced out there before.

Call for Comments

So who’s gonna be taking home $2,500 for winning the women’s race? Who will be the challengers and the biggest surprises? Let us know!

Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.